Last Grave at Dimaza, 1974, digitally remastered 2005
Directors: Chris Curling and Pascoe MacFarlane
Producers: Nana Mahomo, Antonia Caccia and Andrew Tsehiana
Duration: 55 minutes--Available on DVD or VHS
Distributor: First Run Icarus Films, www.frif.com
Last Grave at Dimbaza, the recently re-mastered 1973 documentary produced by South African exile Nana Mahomo, was filmed clandestinely and smuggled out of the country because of its unflinching and critical assessment of apartheid. The film contrasts the lives of Black and white South Africans, focusing on inequities in housing, education, wages and health care. Using vivid imagery shot in cities, townships and Bantustans (also called "homelands") from around the country, Mahomo's intention is, "to show what it is like for the black people of South Africa to be on the receiving end of the white government's apartheid policy."
Although the first few scenes are repetitive with respect to information on employment and living conditions, the images are compelling, contrasting the squalor Blacks are forced to live in with the relatively luxurious conditions surrounding most whites. In stark language and images, the viewer is able to see first hand how husbands are forced to live is single sex labor camps away from their wives and families, how families are forced to live on "homelands" where arable land is sparse and employment is nonexistent and how the system of forced labor is nothing short of modern-day enslavement. In what is perhaps the most cavalier statement of many made by South African officials, the film relays the Department of Justice minister's opinion that "Black workers must not be burdened with superfluous appendages like women and children," thereby justifying the compulsory separation of men from their women and children.
Last Grave plunges right in, describing the concrete conditions that impact on the daily lives of Black South Africans. Though it sacrifices some historical context, like noting the country's relationship with Britain, who transferred power to the white supremist government in 1910, or explaining that the drive to separate Blacks and whites stemmed from the 1913 Natives Land Act which divided the country into African and European areas, the film does make clear the inequality that exists everywhere in the country. For example, on more than one occasion viewers can see how and where 87% of the land in South Africa is reserved...